William Peter Mullins was born in Goresbridge, County Kilkenny into a racing family on the 15th of September, 1956. He began his racing career as am amateur jockey in Ireland, making a name for himself in the United Kingdom when he won the Aintree Fox Hunters’ Chase in 1983 and the Cheltenham Bumper in 1996.
It was as a trainer that he really excelled though, going on to become the most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival. His son, Patrick Mullins, works as Willie’s assistant and is also a successful amateur rider in his own right, which is necessary when your dad is so universally revered.
Although Willie Mullins has also trained winners on the flat, there is no question that it is in the world of National Hunt racing where he is at his best. He began life as a trainer in 1988, having previously worked for both his father and Jim Bolger. In the years that followed, Mullins worked hard to establish himself as a trainer to be reckoned with. He soon struck up a working relationship with Gigginstown House Stud, seeing numerous winners for the organisation before the relationship came to an end in 2016. Mullins didn’t let that affect him, however, and he was crowned Irish Champion Trainer at the end of the 2016-2017 season.
Mullins is the most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, having seen around 100 winners during the famous meeting. When it comes to jump racing, there are few races that haven’t been won by a Willie Mullins trained horse. He won the Grand National in 2005 and the Champion Hurdle in 2011, but for a long time the Cheltenham Gold Cup evaded him. That all changed in 2019 when Al Boum Photo finally won it for him, defending his crown the year after before Galopin Des Champs handed him a third win in the race in 2023 to get him to the point he must have felt as though he’d completed jump racing.
As mentioned, Willie Mullins’ success in National Hunt events cannot be over-stated. Even so, here is a look at some of the events that he’s won at least once as a trainer over the years:
- Grand National
- Cheltenham Gold Cup
- Champion Hurdle
- Queen Mother Champion Chase
- Stayers’ Hurdle
- Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
- King George VI Chase
- Mersey Novices’ Hurdle
- Tolworth Hurdle
- Aintree Hurdle
When you are as successful as Willie Mullins has been during his career, pretty much anyone that owns a horse wants to work with you. From the likes of Whither or Which to Blackstairmountain, there are barely any well-known horses he hasn’t trained. Here are some of the standout ones:
Al Boum Photo
When you have won virtually every big trophy that there is to win in the world of National Hunt racing, it must be incredibly annoying if one of the most prestigious ones keeps avoiding you. With that in mind, then, there is little doubt that Willie Mullins will have a big photo of Al Boum Photo somewhere in his house. The bay gelding was the horse that finally ended Mullins’ long Cheltenham Gold Cup drought, winning it for him for the first time in 2019 before following it up with another win in the race a year later. Bred in France, he joined Willie Mullins’ yard in 2016 and won the Festival Novice Hurdle for him the following year.
If there is another horse that Willie Mullins might have a photo of somewhere important in his horse, it is almost certainly going to be Quevega. The French-bred mare made the record books in 2014 when she won the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle for the sixth time. That broke a record for consecutive wins in the same race at the Cheltenham Festival that had been set by Golden Miller in the Gold Cup in the 1930s. She also won the World Series Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival four times, only just missing out on making it five at the 2014 meeting. She made her debut under Mullins in 2008, a year before starting her record-breaking run.
Galopin Des Champs
Another French-bred horse that Willie Mullins has worked with is Galopin Des Champs. He won on his debut in his native country, at which point he was bought by Mrs Audrey Turley, who put her into the yard of Mullins. The Cheltenham Festival is, of course, Mullins’ bread and butter and he won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle with him for his first victory under the Irishman. A year later and he won the Golden Miller Novices’ Chase at the same meeting, which meant that he was the 7/5 favourite when put into the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2023. He won by seven lengths, showing his utter class.
Part of the reason why there are very few jump racing events that Willie Mullins hasn’t won as a trainer is because of horses like Hurricane Fly. The Irish thoroughbred was, at one point, the record-holder for winning the most Grade 1 or Group 1 races by any racehorse. That record was eventually broken by Winx in 2019, but it shows the impressive work of Mullins as a trainer that he held the record in the first place. Two of those wins came in the Champion Hurdle, which he won for the first time in 2011 and then won again in 2013. When he retired, he was put out to stud at the Irish National Stud in County Kildare.